Intel has made a big announcement here at MWC 2014 in Barcelona with their reveal of the XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced modem which enables Category 6 LTE modem speeds of up to 300 Mbps. In addition to supporting LTE-Advanced they will also support carrier aggregation and flexible carrier aggregation up to 40 MHz in band width. In order to be considered a true Cat6 LTE solution, they really had to have carrier aggregation, so that feature isn’t really much of a surprise.
Intel claims that this new modem will be a global SKU with global support and will have global scale. The claims that this chip will support more than 30 3GPP bands, and up to 22 bands simultaneously on a single SKU. The will also fully support LTE FDD/TDD, WCDMA/HSPA+, TD-SCDMA/TD-HSPA/EDGE for global markets. They are already in the certification process with their 1 SPs, which usually takes about 9 months to complete with the most strenuous SPs. They are expecting to be on-shelf by Q2 2014, which means that Qualcomm’s LTE leadership is shrinking as they are currently the only ones capable of Cat6 LTE and now, with Intel’s announcement, they finally have some sort of competition. What will be interesting to see is whether or not Intel can compete with Qualcomm on power as well as performance, because after all, if your chip is fast as hell but consumes a ton of power its basically useless.
Hopefully for Intel, the introduction of the XMM 7260 RF Front-end multi-mode RF transceiver will help them deliver this Cat6 and below LTE performance at reasonable power levels. They claim that this new RF front-end chip will deliver carrier aggregation in a single chip with support of up to 23 carrier aggregation combinations in one SKU. They also will have a 2nd generation envelop tracking solution which should bring a 20% power reduction, according to their numbers. This new front-end will also allow for seamless FDD/TDD LTE switching, which should help them when trying to work in complex markets like China.
Intel also announced their Merrifield and Moorfield Z34XX and Z35XX dual and quad core 64-bit SoCs. These SoCs are based on Intel’s already announced Silvermont CPU cores, which already exist in Baytrail and are Intel’s version of the Baytrail tablet chip for smartphones. These chips are manufactured on Intel’s 22nm process and feature PowerVR series 6 graphics, as opposed to Intel’s own GPUs like Baytrail. While it remains to be seen how these SoCs will perform against the competition, I believe that Intel may win some design wins, but it won’t be many. They really need to launch their SoFIA chips soon so that they can start to sell their SoCs with LTE modems integrated in order to be able to get more design wins. I believe that this is what currently is hurting Intel’s SoC design wins the most in smartphones. We’ll be checking out these new SoCs down at the show floor and will be sure to report on anything interesting that we end up spotting. We saw a single Merrifield device at IDF last year, but hopefully we’ll see more devices on the show floor of Mobile World Congress soon.